Flag at half-mast out of respect for the family and victims of MH370. More than 48 hours after contact was lost, many, many questions remain. The main being the location of the aircraft. In a modern world where flying has become increasingly commonplace, it is strange and hard to believe how a modern airliner can simply disappear off radar without a trace left behind. The following is a summary of the events as well as my theories relating to the possible incident cause.
8/3 0341 – MH370 departs KUL. 227 PAX, 12 crew inc. 2 tech crew
8/3 0540 – Signal and communication lost. Last comm. with Subang Centre.
8/3 1500 – Vietnam confirms loss of contact and radar connection
8/3 1525 – Details about captain released. 53 yr old Zaharie Ahmad Shah with 18,365 flying hrs
8/3 1531 – China dispatches 2 ships to investigate waters
8/3 1730 – Vietnamese report that the aircraft has intact crashed into sea. UNCONFIRMED BY MAS
8/3 1800 – Malaysia PM hold press conference stating search underway, but no signs of aircraft
9/3 0000 – Reports of oil slicks discovered near last contact site. Unconfirmed as being related to MAS
9/3 0400 – Reports arise of two passengers travelling under passports stolen from Thailand
9/3 1000 – USA will send FBI to KUL to assist with investigation surrounding terrorism
9/3 1500 – Malaysia have activated counter-terrorism unit
9/3 1700 – Malaysia aviation chief confirms CCTV footage of boarding/security is being examined
9/3 1800 – Revealed that the two people travelling on stolen passports booked their flights together. The flights were one way and included a connection from Beijing to Amsterdam on KLM.
The aircraft, 9M-MRO, was delivered to MAS on 31 May 2002. It is a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, a commonly used long haul jetliner. It was the same type of aircraft involved in the Asiana 214 incident in 2013. The aircraft sustained damage to its right wing-tip after colliding with a China Eastern aircraft whilst taxiing in Shanghai Pudong in 2012.
The captain, with 18365 flying hours, was 53 year old Zaharie Ahmad Shah. The first officer, with 2763 flying hours, was Fariq Bin Ab Hamid. There were 10 cabin-crew onboard.
There were 14 nationalities aboard the aircraft, predominantly Chinese citizens. Suspicions arose when it was revealed that the single Austrian and Italian citizens were in fact travelling on stolen passports. Therefore, the nationalities of these two people remain unknown. The Italian passport belonged to Luigi Maraldi, until it was stolen from him in Thailand last year. The Austrian had his passport stolen from him in Thailand 2 years prior. Both were travelling in the same booking and had an onward connection to Amsterdam.
Structural failure – The aircraft may have had a total structural failure whilst in-flight causing the aircraft to disintegrate. This would instantly result in a steep dive and impact. Taking into account the incredible level of safety put into aviation, the only likely cause of a structural failure could be the prior incident involving the wingtip clip in Shanghai. However, it has been revealed that an aircraft ahead of MH370 made brief contact with the captain or first officer. The captain of the other flight stated that he heard mumbling and static. In a complete structural failure, it is unlikely that the crew would have the time to respond in any way to a radio call
Pilot error – Given the extremely high level of passion and experience of the captain, it is highly unlikely that pilot error was to blame.
Mechanical/System fault – In 2009, Air France 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing all onboard. This was as a result of a blocked pitot tube measuring airspeed incorrectly, causing the autopilot to fail. However, in this situation the crew were less experienced and acted in the wrong way to the emergency. Another computer or system fault is highly unlikely. Whatever happened to MH370 happened very, very quickly. If there was any more time, the crew would have made a radio call or changed the transponder squawk code. Any mechanical or system fault would not result in such a rapid incident, and would have provided enough time for the crew to react.
Act of Terror/ Hijack – Given the current evidence, this seems the most likely cause. The two passengers travelling on stolen passports raise grave concerns. Over two years, two separate people had their passports stolen in Thailand. These were then used to board MH370 to Beijing by other people. The actual men onboard the flight had booked their tickets together and then were connecting on to Amsterdam from Beijing, all on a one-way trip. This would clearly align with the current evidence. If a hijacker had entered the cockpit, the mumbling and static heard by the captain of the leading aircraft could be explained. Secondly, if the mumbling was the sounds of the captain/ first officer, it could be explained that a bomb had exploded onboard. This would cause a rapid decompression, severing most aircraft systems. But, depending on the size of the explosive, it is possible that the crew may have had a short time to control the aircraft and/or make brief radio contact (as heard). Another possible scenario is that the aircraft was taken over by hijackers but was not immediately ditched. If hijackers had managed to overpower the crew, it is a simple procedure to shut off all radio communications and radar systems so that the plane is undetectable. There could be some miracle in which the aircraft was then flown to some remote location, and has not necessarily ditched in the Gulf of Thailand. There are, however, a few arguments against an act of terror. The men travelling on stolen passports may have been part of a human trafficking mission and not much more. If this were the case, one of the other causes are plausible. Secondly, without weaponry, it is very difficult for terrorists to breach the cockpit and take control of the aircraft. Furthermore, it is also difficult to smuggle an explosive onboard or in the cargo. However, despite the difficulty, it is possible that a small explosive may have been concealed in the cargo or another area on the aircraft. Taking all evidence into account, it seem most plausible that an Act of Terror was to blame for the incident.
Where the aircraft is is still unknown. 48 hours of constant searching by Singapore, China, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam and USA have resulted in nothing more than a mystery oil slick and a small piece of debris (not confirmed to be part of the aircraft). Aviation safety is at an incredibly high level, and it is unlikely that a structural failure resulted in a complete hull loss. Given the history of mid-ocean/sea accidents, it may take months or even years until the aircraft and its vital parts (including CVR and FDR) are retrieved, and even longer until the mystery is solved. The FBI, INTERPOL and Malaysia’s Counter Terrorism Unit are all currently reviewing and researching any other suspicious passengers, as well as exploring the details surrounding the Austrian and Italian passport holders. It may be a long time until we know what happened to MH370, or even where it is. This is an event that took the world by surprise and may remain a mystery for years to come.